Saturday, October 29, 2011

Arkham City review (Spoiler)

    Okay, I wrote a Non-Spoiler review of Batman: Arkham City and posted it right before this one. If you're not interested in having plot-points and character decisions spoiled for you, I suggest you go read it (here).

    If you've finished the game, here's a review which will talk about all of the various developments in the video-game mythos. Given that a lot of Batman: Arkham City's plot depends on surprise, I highly recommend that you do NOT read this review if you haven't completed the game.

    Okay, glad that warning is out of the way.


    HEAVY spoilers to follow.

    I loved the plot.

    The idea of the Joker being  poisoned by the Titan formula he ingested to beat Batman in Batman: Arkham Asylum is poetic justice at its finest. The fact they have the audacity to actually kill the Joker is something I hope they won't reverse for the next game. Well, actually, that's a lie. I hope they bring back Mark Hamill as the Joker because he's entertaining as hell.

    I know there's a big controversy over whether or not Mark Hamill will ever return as the Joker. Honestly, that's his choice. If he wants to, I'd certainly welcome it. If not, I think the Joker should be retired from this particular mythos.

    There's plenty of other villains to use from Prometheus to Bane. Well, not Bane. The Bane in this version is a character who lives and dies on his drug addiction. He also got defeated easily by Batman in this one. Frankly, I do think the game went a little overboard in its killing. Killing the Joker at the climax of the game is one thing. Killing Ra's al Ghul, Talia al Ghul, and Hugo Strange in addition to the Joker is crazy.

    Ra's al Ghul and Talia al Ghul are unlikely to remain dead anyway but the game makes a big deal about Talia's death. Frankly, I hope she comes back next game as I was intrigued by Batman and Talia's relationship. I especially liked that Barbara Gordon a.k.a Oracle was clearly jealous of her.

    The use of Ra's al Ghul as the mastermind behind the plot is something I have mixed feelings on. I absolutely loved Ra's al Ghul's Wonder City and the "Tests of the Demon" (though I felt a hang-glider test to determine Batman's fitness and the "giant Ra's" fight were a bit silly) but I didn't think it made sense for Ra's to be behind Hugo Strange. Ra's al Ghul is about world domination and purifying the planet.

    Yes, I could see Ra's al Ghul wanting to kill a bunch of criminals but I really think this should have been restricted to a side-quest. Frankly, the fact Ra's al Ghul dies within minutes of the revelation that he's behind Arkham City makes the whole thing silly. Why not Ra's al Ghul the final boss if this is his brainchild? I like Clayface just fine but it really should have been one final battle against the Joker or the Demon's Head.

    Speaking of which, I did like the Hugo Strange "tower climb" and I thought he was effective as the warden of Arkham City. One thing I might have changed would be inserting the helicopters dropping Tyger troopers throughout the game to attack Batman. It would have made the dangers of Hugo Strange and the Tyger organization all the more pressing.

    Likewise, I would have kept Quincy Sharp as Hugo Strange's willing collaborator or made Sharp the ultimate mastermind of Arkham City. He was set up as a major bad guy in Arkham Asylum with his plans to create the city located in a secret room behind his office. There was no reason to reduce him to a one-note pawn in this game.

    Another thing I appreciated was the use of continuity in this game. Batman: Arkham Asylum felt like a six issue mini-series. Batman: Arkham City feels like an on-going comic book. You get to investigate Bane, Deadshot, and Hush as part of your efforts to clean up Arkham City and none of these characters relate back to the main plot. I really enjoyed the investigations and hope we continue the side-quests in the next game.

    BTW, there was NO reason to cop-out on a Bane vs. Batman fight in this game. BAD developers! People who have finished the game and go back to the Joker's hideout will probably want me to comment on the fact that Harley Quinn is pregnant with the Joker's child. I'm not really sure what people expect to come from this and I'm kind of 'meh' about the whole thing.

    We're a little past the Victorian idea of the "demon seed" and the worst thing that could happen is that the kid becomes a Batman Beyond villain. Amusingly, I'd like to think that Harley names her "Duela" and has Harvey sign off as her godfather.

    You'd have to be a hardcore DC fan to get that joke.

    I think the character to benefit most from Arkham City, however, is the Riddler. I admit to being a huge fan of the Riddler. I think a lot of comic book writers struggle with the Riddler because he's not as psychotic as other members of the Rogues Gallery his theme is similar to the Joker's. Also, of course, the riddles can't be things that the audience gets if they're too hard for the police. A video game, by contrast, is the perfect medium for the Riddler as it gives audience participation.

    The Riddler is great in this game, basically existing as the secret ruler of Arkham City. He's infiltrated all of the gangs in the city, has set up elaborate traps for his hostages, and has huge projection screens he uses to taunt Batman.

    Literally, the entire city is covered in Riddler gizmos and devices. I would have preferred more hostages to rescue, perhaps a dozen instead of four so it didn't require QUITE so many Riddler trophies between rescues. Still, the Riddler was awesome and I loved the Mad Headdrome-esque effect he possessed during his taunts.

    What do I want from Arkham Asylum 3? I think, honestly, I'd like to actually explore Gotham City as opposed to just a portion of it that's been walled off. You could move around the city in the Bat Mobile after the Black Glove Society or whoever takes a building over. Each individual section of the city is a different "stage" per se. That way, you wouldn't have to do the entirety of the city like in Arkham City.

    On the other hand, some may actually find that inferior to Arkham City so to each their own.

    Great game, though. Well done.


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